Illinois vs Iowa
7 pm

Two young, talented teams, winless in the Big Ten, enduring some bad luck so far. Something’s gotta give.

Iowa comes to Champaign this evening with a 9-9 record, including 0-5 in Big Ten play. Like the Illini, the Hawkeyes are light on seniors and is reliant on up-and-coming stars. Sophomore Jordan Bohannon has been a spark plug, averaging 12 points and 5 assists, and freshman Luke Garza has come on strong in recent weeks, getting two Big Ten Freshman of the Week awards, putting up an average of 10 points and 6 rebounds.

KenPom puts little distance between the Illini and Iowa, ranking 87 and 90, respectively. Offensively the Hawkeyes rate better, with 110.3 points to Illinois’s 104.2 points per 100 possessions, but defensively they rate much worse, at 102.7 points versus 96.3 points allowed per 100 possessions. Iowa has been a bit less lucky, however, ranking 338 to Illinois’s 321 in KenPom’s luck metric.

Illinois was hit hard by the flu, which ravaged most of the team, beginning before the Minnesota game last week. With that, hopefully, in the past, a full-strength squad should be able to earn its first win in conference play this evening. While Iowa is similar to the Illini, they have looked worse in their games and aren’t playing for much more than respect now. As Sam Vecinie of The Athletic put it, “The Hawkeyes are done. There is startlingly little to their accomplishments.”

If Illinois’s defense holds up and guys like Kipper Nichols and Greg Eboigbodin maintain a hot hand from the bench, the Illini as a 5.5 favorite looks like a good bet.

Photo by Mike Pauza